Riyadh (Reuters) – Saudi officials have hailed as “historic” new rights granted to women in Saudi Arabia that further dismantle its heavily criticized guardianship system, but male relatives could still find ways to thwart these freedoms.
Written by Marwa Rashad and Stephen Kalin, Reuters
Thousands of Saudi women took to social media to celebrate royal decrees on Friday that allow women above 21 to travel without permission as of the end of August. Women also now have the right to register births, marriages and divorces, to be issued official family documents and be guardians to minors.
Experts, however, say male relatives can still obstruct women defying their wishes through legal avenues or informal routes in the ultra-conservative kingdom, where it will take time to change views on gender and social customs.
“We need enforcement of these laws and the establishment of reporting mechanisms when these policies are not being upheld, as well as watchdog organizations,” said Hala al-Dosari, a U.S.-based Saudi women’s rights expert.
Male guardians can still file cases of disobedience and absence from home against women, Dosari said. The government recognizes filial disobedience as a crime.